Questions related to the perception and measurement of light (primarily in the visible range), its mathematical description, the reproduction of colors by different means, color combinations, etc. Please use the tag [electromagnetic-radiation] if you want to refer to the general form of light.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (3)

43
votes
5answers
15k views

Why is the sky never green? It can be blue or orange, and green is in between!

I, like everybody I suppose, have read the explanations why the colour of the sky is blue: ... the two most common types of matter present in the atmosphere are gaseous nitrogen and oxygen. ...
52
votes
1answer
16k views

Why does a window become a mirror at night?

In day, when you look in the room through the window out, you can clearly see what happens outside. At night when it's dark outside but there's light inside you can look in the window but it becomes a ...
15
votes
1answer
948 views

Why is everything not transparent? [duplicate]

There is a related question on this site here: Why glass is transparent? Which explains that glass is transparent because the atoms in glass have very large energy differences between energy levels ...
11
votes
2answers
2k views

EM wave function & photon wavefunction

According to this review Photon wave function. Iwo Bialynicki-Birula. Progress in Optics 36 V (1996), pp. 245-294. arXiv:quant-ph/0508202, a classical EM plane wavefunction is a wavefunction (in ...
22
votes
3answers
3k views

Why is the light reflected at the same angle from mirror?

From the school physics I know that the material objects bounce from the plane surface at the same angle, losing some kinetic energy. In the same school I was taught that the light (and waves in ...
14
votes
3answers
3k views

Is true black possible?

Black is the absence of light because it absorbs light, but when we create black paint or black objects, light is always reflected, either in all directions in matte or smoothly in shiny black objects,...
8
votes
3answers
3k views

Does light change color on its way through a window? [duplicate]

Looking at the refractive index of glass, it's around $1.6$. Then the speed of light $x$ through light should be given by $$ 1.6 = \frac{3.0\times10^8}{x}, $$ so $x$ is about $2\times10^8~\mathrm{m}~\...
6
votes
5answers
485 views

Trapping a lightray

Given a solid whose interior is a hollow sphere with perfectly reflecting mirrors. A small hole is drilled in the sphere and a photon is sent in at some angle. Will it always eventually exit through ...
7
votes
5answers
8k views

Is it (theoretically) physically possible to project an image into thin air?

Is there some law of physics that strictly prohibits the projection of 2D or 3D images into thin air (such as holograms in movies) or is a solution to achieve this still up for grabs by an eventual ...
3
votes
4answers
60k views

Why do diamonds shine?

I have always wondered why diamonds shine. Can anyone tell me why?
1
vote
1answer
651 views

How can you test what color different people perceive? [closed]

If I would show someone a yellow object and ask them, "is this object yellow?" That person would say "yes". But I could never know if my perception of the color yellow is the same as that other ...
4
votes
2answers
982 views

Do Photons Move in a Wave Like Pattern? [duplicate]

In many pieces of literature, light is said to travel like a "wave". Does this mean the light literally propagates through space like a wave as in up and down and so on or does light move linearly ...
3
votes
4answers
623 views

What was the motivation behind suggesting the trichromatic theory of vision?

Background In this thread, I asked whether it is true that the colors red, green and blue, through additive mixture, can make up any color. Turns out they can't. However, when reading about the ...
2
votes
3answers
709 views

How does the solar sailing concept work?

Wikipedia describes solar sailing as a form of spacecraft propulsion using a combination of light and high speed ejected gasses from a star to push large ultra-thin mirrors to high speeds. I ...
0
votes
2answers
702 views

Observer looking out through the window of a train [duplicate]

When travelling by a train, it seems that the nearby objects move in the opposite direction(which I can explain) but the distant objects appear stationary. I can't explain this. By the concept of ...
131
votes
7answers
10k views

Stupid yet tricky question: Why do we actually see the sun?

I haven't yet gotten a good answer to this: If you have two rays of light of the same wavelength and polarization (just to make it simple for now, but it easily generalizes to any range and all ...
37
votes
9answers
12k views

Why can't we see gases?

I am not sure what causes gas molecules to be invisible.This question may look silly but I really want to know the story behind it.
15
votes
3answers
15k views

Is it possible to reproduce Double-slit experiment by myself at home?

I want to reproduce this experiment by myself. What I need for this. What parameters of slits and laser/another light source it needs? Is it possible to make DIY-detector?
31
votes
3answers
5k views

Can I use an antenna as a light source?

Can I use a normal metal antenna to emit visible light?
34
votes
8answers
6k views

Will we ever be able to view the past?

By analogy with the sun, whose light is apparently reaching us in 8 minutes, it means that we are only viewing the sun 8 minutes ago when we look up at it. However, what if we were eventually able to ...
23
votes
7answers
5k views

How do we see? Where do the photons disappear?

I know that the light is reflected from a object to my eyes, but I don't understand exactly how. The photons appear from the light source and disappear in my eye! Can someone explain the phenomenon of ...
7
votes
1answer
4k views

Transparency of materials

Is transparency of material has something to do with inter- or intra-molecular bonding? E.g. both graphite and diamond are carbon, but graphite is opaque and diamond transparent.
32
votes
2answers
6k views

Why is the sun brighter in Australia compared to parts of Asia?

Background: I've lived in Philippines for several years, and visited other parts of Asia occasionally (Singapore, Indonesia, Hongkong). I just moved to Western Australia a few months ago and I ...
29
votes
3answers
4k views

Why aren't all objects transparent?

I know that for an object to be transparent, visible light must go through it undisturbed. In other words, if the light energy is sufficiently high to excite one of the electrons in the material, ...
16
votes
9answers
2k views

How does light behave within a black hole's event horizon?

If the event horizon of a black hole is the distance from the center from within which light cannot escape, imagine a person with a flashlight falls into the black hole. He points his flashlight in a ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Is it possible to charge photons

For example there are anti-particles to every particle we know, Similary in some sense, is there a possibility that we can charge photons..if not what are the reasons and has there been any attempt ...
2
votes
1answer
195 views

When photons are emitted, do they accelerate to reach the speed of light? [duplicate]

Photons are considered mass-less particle with a specific velocity but according to the electromagnetic theory, a photon is considered to have both energy and momentum. So what happen when they are ...
15
votes
3answers
2k views

What are these rays that appear in photograph of sun?

In many images of light emitting objects we see such rays. Why do they appear ? What is the math behind their number and direction?
14
votes
1answer
605 views

Is colour, as represented using primary colours, accurate only to humans?

Slightly biological, hopefully physical enough to be answered. Suppose a magenta hue is represented by a mix of red and blue pigment. This is all very well for a creature with red and blue ...
13
votes
4answers
973 views

How does interference move energy from destructive to constructive regions?

I recently read (sorry but I don’t have a reference) that interference is not only about destructive and constructive interference but moving energy from destructive to constructive regions according ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

Why do stars flicker?

Why do stars flicker and planets don't? At least this is what I've read online and seen on the night sky. I've heard that it has to do something with the fact that stars emit light and planets reflect ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Confused about fire?

Im confused about fire. The way I see it : Heat creates (kinetic) energy in mass and this creates stronger vibrations of atoms. When those vibrations are strong enough the electrons interact ...
0
votes
1answer
753 views

Why do we observe opposite motion of trees (nearer) and trees (distant) when seen from a moving frame? [duplicate]

If you are in a moving train or in a bus, what you observe is that the trees which are nearer to you move opposite to the direction of your motion. But the trees which are very far away from you, ...
9
votes
4answers
44k views

What makes some laser beams visible and other laser beams invisible?

What makes the beam of some lasers: visible? such as the ones used in clubs or such as the laser pointers sold at amazon which if pointed to the sky look like a solid visible beam of light ...
5
votes
1answer
4k views

Transparency of solids using bandgaps and relation to conduction and valence bands

I think I understand how a solid can appear transparent as long as the energy of the photons travelling through it are not absorbed in the material's bandgap. But how does this band gap relate to ...
5
votes
3answers
5k views

Why is moonlight less colourful than yellow light?

Just what the title states; and this isn't an original question: On full-moon, moonlight is almost as bright as mid-dawn; yet there is hardly any colour visible. This is not the case with sunlight. ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Why doesn't gravity speed up light?

We know that gravity speeds up a body; for instance, a meteor which enters the earth gets constantly accelerated up by earth's gravity. And from relativity we know that light bends near a massive body,...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Does diffraction occur before interference?

In the double slit experiment, light passes through two slits and the waves interfere and form an interference pattern. A single slit is required for diffraction. So, I was thinking about whether ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

Does light induce an electric current in a conductor?

I know that electromagnetic waves induce electric currents in conductors and that's the basis for radio, wi-fi etc. I also know that light is also an electromagnetic wave. So, can light induce a ...
3
votes
1answer
354 views

How can radiation be a transverse wave? Does light really resemble a rope? How can a 3D field be a medium for non-spatial 1D waves? Need mental model

I understand longitudinal waves. For example, I've got a clear mental modal of air waves: a slice of air becomes overcompressed, then the slice next to it becomes overcompressed and the first slice ...
2
votes
4answers
8k views

Hours of light per day based on latitude/longitude formula

I'm looking for a formula that will return the number of hours per day given a specific location. I was thinking that can be calculated as a difference of sunrise and sunset, but I see that there are ...
1
vote
3answers
6k views

How do I calculate the power consumed by a lightbulb?

I'm studying a lightbulb and its variable resistance, given by the expression: $R(T) = Ro[1 + α(T-T_0)]$, where $R_0$ is the resistance of the lamp at $T_0$. In this case, $R$ is not given by Ohm's ...
8
votes
3answers
204 views

Why doesn't $ds^2 = 0$ imply two distinct points $p$ and $p'$ on a manifold are the same point?

Let's suppose I have a spacetime manifold $M$. Let $p$ be a point on my manifold. Now I move from $p$ to some other point $p'$. Presumably I should have moved some "distance" right? How can I speak of ...
8
votes
1answer
2k views

What happens to light that falls into a black hole?

When light enters a black hole, what happens to it? I imagine the photons will either fall into the singularity, or the light will orbit just inside the event horizon indefinitely. (Some background ...
6
votes
5answers
593 views

What exactly are light waves?

We know a sound wave is a disturbance that moves through a medium when particles of the medium set neighboring particles in motion. And using the pressure variations we can plot a pressure/time graph ...
4
votes
2answers
250 views

Is it possible to have a perfectly black material?

After reading this NASA article about the "blackest material", the following stuck out to me. The tiny gaps between the tubes absorb 99.5 percent of the light that hits them Is it possible to ...
4
votes
1answer
508 views

What is the sun's spectral series?

My physics book says that six colors can be distinctly seen in white light: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Does solar light only use these six wavelengths and mix them additively, or ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Can a dot of light travel faster than the speed of light? [duplicate]

Say I have a laser. If I spin the laser so that the beam sweeps in an arc along a very distant object, could that dot travel faster than the speed of light? In Diagram form:
3
votes
3answers
2k views

During reflection does the emitted photon have same properties?

When light (photon) is reflected the the original photon is absorbed by an electron and then emitted again. Does this "new" photon have the same wavelength, frequency etc. as the original?
3
votes
4answers
11k views

Why is there a difference between additive and subtractive trichromatic color theories?

Helmholtz distinguished between additive and subtractive trichromatic color theories. Additive theories concern optical combinations of colored light sources and are usually modelled on RGB while ...